Nurses are known to be adept at multitasking. Well designed Health IT systems can help nurses fulfill their tasks with better efficiency. Common, fundamental responsibilities of a registered nurse in an outpatient or inpatient facility include:
- Managing administration of medications through various routes (intravenous, oral, and so on)
- Observing and monitoring patient conditions
- Maintaining notes pertaining to the patient’s condition. Using medical coding systems like SNOMED, ICD 10, NANDA, MEDCIN, and so on to record medical conditions
- Communicating with physicians and patients
- Managing pharmacy and inventory logistics. Dealing with medications that must be administered, returned, or disposed of based on the requirements
- Providing immunizations
- Making minor, informed decisions on laboratory tests and placing orders in the absence of the clinician
- Counseling during prenatal consultations, educating patients in general, and assisting the clinicians during surgeries and labor and delivery
There are many more that can be added to the list, but the primary function still remains patient safety and improving quality of life. Moreover, nurses often spend most of their time in clinical documentation on Health IT systems, which includes recording vital signs, adverse reactions to medications, and many more clinical notes. Ultimately, there is comparatively less time spent on actual patient care. One may want to question whether such multitasking is safe during a busy shift. After all, even minor negligence may put a patient’s life in jeopardy.
The answer to this may be that the nurse should organize and manage tasks based on priority. Proper management of tasks in turn leads to improved quality of treatment. A significant amount of time is also saved so nurses can focus on other administrative tasks. Can this be achieved by a nurse? Certainly the introduction of Health IT systems has opened up options so that a nurse can smoothly deliver quality care to patients by educating them about their health in an interactive manner. Going paperless means having enough time to concentrate on patient treatment.
The impact of Health IT systems in nursing is further evidence of the need for digitization in healthcare.
Nurses use technology to:
- Record medication history at the bedside
- Record patient demographics and clinical history
- Remotely monitor patients as a part of telenursing
- Perform administrative tasks such as quality assurance and scheduling appointments for various tests
- Perform literature searches and reviews for research purposes
Well-designed health-technology products also assist the nurse in monitoring errors during patient treatment. Hence, nurses can play an active role in the implementation of health-information technologies like EHRs, EMRs, EPRs, smartphones, medical apps, etc., and contribute effectively to the clinical practice.
When nurses are expected to take advantage of such solutions, it becomes pivotal for those systems to be usable by them. To prove the usability of Health IT systems, the nurses must develop the necessary skills to handle, analyze, interpret, and disseminate health information using such systems. In order to encourage the usage of digital healthcare solutions, it is important to involve this major user group (nurses) during the analysis, design, development, and implementation phases of the product. This will help in designing a system that contains features any nurse would expect to have in order to perform daily tasks with ease and provide quality care.
As seen above, based on the primary duties of a nurse, the behavior and traits of an EHR or app should be free from any clinical risks while helping nurses do their jobs efficiently and effectively.
If we were to categorize the responsibilities of a nurse into three possible segments: care coordination, digital documentation, and organizational responsibilities, the characteristics of a Health IT solution that nurses will expect to have for performing their duties with ease can be listed accordingly. Those will be discussed in the next post.